The story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them.
What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
This isn’t a novel. This is a religious experience. This is crying at random intervals for days (even months!) because everything about Andre Aciman’s writing is so grotesquely moving. Let me just start by saying I watched the movie first. Somehow my version didn’t have subtitles and that led to a lot of confusion since the main character/boy genius is multi-lingual.
The movie was good. The book was a billion times better. I knew from the first page that this book was going to mess me the heck up, and boy was I right. I’m a sucker for a good love story, but Elio and Oliver are so much more than that. This is a coming of age story and a discovering yourself story.
The writing itself is a mix of poetry, stream of consciousness, and prose. Though the love story comes to an “end” (not really) way before the final chapter, Aciman pushes forward. He doesn’t just explore the beautiful and the ugly about intense, heartwrenching first love. He shows us what happens after, how even the most fleeting of summers can leave a permanent mark on the rest of our lives.
I fell in love with the story, with Oliver, and the Italian countryside, but I mostly fell in love with Elio. He is a flawed, deeply real narrator, and we can all relate to his struggle to find himself. I spent the final chunk of this book in a bathtub with the water turned all the way up so my neighbors wouldn’t hear me ugly crying. This isn’t a gay love story. It’s not a smutty tale of a teenager exploring his sexuality (but, dear lord, is there a lot of glorious exploring). Call Me By Your Name is a proclamation of love for the power of memory and desire.
Just do yourself a favor and watch the movie after you read the book.
- The. Sexual. Tension.
- Good grief does Aciman know his way around European history, literature, and mythology.
- A sap-free love story.
- Raw, real emotion on every single page.
- Elio, Elio, Elio.
- I’ll never be able to look at a peach the same way again.
I’m still crying over this book months later. It’s easily the best book I’ve read in 3+ years and possibly in my entire life. Because Aciman’s words speak entirely for themselves, I’ll leave you with my favorite quote:
“And on that evening when we grow older still we’ll speak about these two young men as though they were two strangers we met on the train and whom we admire and want to help along. And we’ll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”